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Why Nigerians should join the anti-poverty rallies

By Femi Falana SAN

In a well attended press conference held in Abuja on January 16, 2020, the Minister of State, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Timpere Sylva disclosed that the Federal Government had adopted Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as an alternative to Premium Motor Spirit (PMS). In justifying the official policy the Minister said that CNG would crash the cost of transportation and play a crucial role in eliminating the huge burden of subsidy payment as it would be sold at between N95 and N97 per litre unlike PMS that was then selling at N145 per litre.

The Minister assured the Nigerian people that the Federal Government had put necessary infrastructure in place for the effective take off of the project in September 2020. In particular, the Minister said that “Already, there is a pilot programme in Benin City, which has worked for a long time. About 4,000 vehicles are already on CNG in Benin. We want to expand that CNG programme across the country and we believe it is going to create a lot of opportunities for Nigerians and also give Nigerians a new lease of life because the commodity would be accessible.”

About a month later, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) started awareness campaign on the usage of CNG as an alternative to PMS which was putting pressure on the Naira on daily basis. The DPR urged Nigerians to embrace CNG as it is cleaner, cheaper and more eco-friendly than PMS. It was later disclosed that the Ministry of Petroleum Resources had secured partnership with NIPCO Gas Limited and Green Fuels Limited for immediate conversion of petrol-consuming vehicles to compressed natural gas-fired ones, building CNG retail outlets across the country.

Shortly thereafter, the Federal Government said that it had introduced a N250 billion intervention facility to stimulate finance and motivate investors in the gas value chain for sustainable business development in the country. It was said that other objectives of the facility included providing a platform to fast track the adoption of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as the fuel of choice for transportation and power generation and Liquefied Natural Gas (LPG) for domestic cooking, transportation and captive power.

Indeed, the Federal Government chose 12 states for the pilot phase of the conversation of vehicles using petrol and diesel to enable them to run on autogas. The 12 states are   Lagos, Ogun, Bauchi, Gombe, FCT, Niger, Katsina, Sokoto, Ebonyi, Enugu, Delta and Bayelsa. But due lack of the necessary  infrastructure and high cost of gas, the autogas plan of the Buhari administration has not taken off.  Hence, the Federal Government decided to remove the so called subsidy and announced the plan to distribute  N5,000 transport allowance to 40 million poor citizens. The suggestion that the huge fund be spent on the fixing the nation’s comatose refineries has been ignored.

Having failed to fast track the implementation of the autogas project the Buhahi administration has concluded plans to increase the price of PMS notwithstanding its reverberating effect on the cost of goods and services in the country. Another justification for increase is that it will curb the smuggling of fuel from Nigeria to neighbouring countries. The implication is that the people of Nigeria are being punished for the criminal activities of smugglers. Since the actions of the Federal Government cannot be justified we are therefore compelled to call on the economically marginalised Nigerian people to participate in the rallies scheduled to hold throughout the country on January 27 and February 1, 2022 at the instance of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress as well as the progressive extraction of Civil Society Organisations. The victims of the neoliberal economic policies of the Federal Government have nothing to lose but their chains.

Instead of supporting the planned increase in the price of fuel to N302 per litre the Nigerian Governors Forum ought to adopt measures to end the alleged smuggling of over 60 million litres per day. However, since the rallies are designed to warn the Federal Government to stop further provoking the Nigerian people  it is hoped that all anti people’s economic policies will be jettisoned in the public interest. Otherwise, the regime should be prepared for a popular uprising if it goes ahead to remove the so called full subsidy or under recovery in June 2022 or thereafter.

Femi Falana SAN is Interim Chairman, ASCAB.

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